Questions have been raised over what a potential new pay structure for nurses working in the NHS would mean for those in primary care and has sparked fresh calls for ‘fair pay’ for general practice nurses (GPNs).
The government is seeking views on the ‘risks and benefits’ of a separate pay spine for NHS nurses in England, amid concerns over the career progression of nurses on Agenda for Change contracts.
The Department of Health and Social Care confirmed to Nursing in Practice the new scale would not include nurses working in general practice as they were employed by independent providers.
GPNs have taken to social media to share their reactions to the news, with some wondering whether now is the time for an argument for change within primary care as well.
Advanced nurse practitioner Helen Lewis wrote on X (formerly Twitter): ‘GPNs are not part of the NHS pay scales and really are left to the mercy of the GP employer regarding pay.
‘This may be a time for change regarding employment, due to retention and recruitment, to have GPNs employed directly by NHS?’
Meanwhile, practice nurse Claire Underwood, added: ‘GPNs need a similar but separate pay scale as our skills and responsibilities are not comparable to secondary care.’
Registered nurse Alison Paterson also said: ‘You would hope that [a new pay scale for NHS nurses] would mean wages would increase as employers compete to get nurses, but this isn’t happening currently despite the shortage of GPNs.’
And Jan Gower, GPN fellowship lead at the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Training Hub, said it was not surprising practice nurses had not been considered within the government’s consultation.
‘Well we’re not included in anything else so why would we be considered here,’ she wrote on X.
However, GPN Lee Collins said he did not think a new pay spine for NHS nurses would be ‘an issue’.
‘As GPNs, our skill set is very different from one nurse to another,’ he posted on X. ‘We don’t really fit on a rigid scale such as this.’
Though he warned: ‘It does leave those who are not good at negotiating pay or work for “poor” practices more vulnerable to low pay.’
Also responding to the news, Royal College of Nursing (RCN) primary care lead, Heather Randle, told Nursing in Practice: ‘If the main NHS contract is changed and nurses are valued as they should be then, of course, all nurses will rightly look at how they could learn from it – or even copy it.’
But regardless of the pay structure, GPNs ‘must have pay, terms and conditions that are at least equal to their NHS colleagues’, added Ms Randle.
‘Nurses across every health and care setting deserve to be valued for the safety-critical work they do,’ she added.
‘Crucially, funding for general practice nursing pay, terms and conditions must be ringfenced or nursing staff may not receive their pay uplift.
‘The nursing profession varies hugely across settings, with different challenges and solutions, but the bottom line is that nursing in every workplace needs to be made an attractive career and recognised as the skilled role that it is – starting with fair pay.’
The RCN has this month been running a survey to identify how many GPNs have gone without an uplift, or a full 6% uplift, amid funding issues.